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Should the Vancouver Aquarium Increase its Captive Cetacean Program?

Monday, July 28th, 2014

This is the question that the Vancouver Park Board asked on Saturday, July 26, 2014, with continuing public input on Monday, July 28.

The meeting launched with the presentation of a fact finding report in the morning, followedDSC_5685 by ample time for Vancouver Aquarium staff to present their case. All other speakers were allotted three minutes only to speak. Several speakers who had signed up expressed their concern that their already short time allotment of five minutes was cut to a mere three minutes, forcing people to cut or rush through their prepared statements. There was no opportunity for a scientist who opposed keeping cetaceans in captivity to speak, and as one speaker stated, “no one is going to fly out for only three minutes.” However, the Park Commissioners appeared to have conducted thorough research into the issues and posed questions to the Aquarium staff that included questions about the stress that captive cetaceans experience and the deaths of some of the facility’s belugas.

The question posed at the meeting was whether the Vancouver Aquarium should add to the numbers of whales and dolphins they hold captive in their facility or have on loan to Sea World and Georgia Aquarium.

Dr. Joseph Gaydos presented his report on the aquarium’s operations around captive cetaceans that the park board engaged to “provide a non-biased, third party review” of the aquarium’s captive cetacean program and how it compares to comparable aquariums. Staff from the Vancouver Aquarium followed with their position on captive cetaceans. It was after three p.m. when the public was given an opportunity to speak.

The overall tone of Dr. Gaydos’ presentation and the report was favourable for the Vancouver Aquarium’s position. Dr. Gaydos described the care that the Vancouver Aquarium provides for animals as “exceptional” and stated that no animals are acquired from the wild except in the case of injured animals.

However, Dr. Gaydos noted that several jurisdictions, including South Carolina and Hawaii, Cyprus, Chile, Slovenia, and India prohibit the display of cetaceans. India went as far as declaring that cetaceans are “non-human persons” who have the right not to be held in captivity. The audience clapped enthusiastically in response. He also identified three aquariums that do not have captive cetaceans that attract more annual visitors than the Vancouver aquarium. Monterey Bay Aquarium receives 1.9 million visitors per year, Aquarium of the Pacific receives 1.5 million, and New England Bay Aquarium receives 1.3 million.

Vancouver Aquarium staff, including Dr. John Nightingale responded to questions from the Park Commissioners. He espoused the need for captive animals for research programs and claimed that their captivity actually benefited whales in the wild because of the research opportunities they provide. The Aquarium also claimed that the captive animals provide invaluable education opportunities for children ‘who would otherwise never see any of these animals.’

Speakers, who included local scientists, conservation groups, concerned citizens, and a couple of very dedicated children, provided as much input as they could during their hastily shortened speeches. Liberation BC and other speakers questioned the acquisition of dolphins, including the Aquarium’s two Pacific white-sided dolphins, Helen and Hana, from Japan, a country where deadly dolphin drive hunts are conducted annually. We also questioned the validity of claims that keeping whales captive for research is justified when scientist such as Dr. Lori Marino have argued that it is unethical to keep intelligent animals like cetaceans captive, and that there is no compelling evidence to support captivity for the sake of educating the public. Some members of the public expressed support for the aquarium and referred to childhood memories of awe inspiring visits to the facility. Some took the position that captive whales allowed much needed research to be conducted and that children learned from seeing the whales in their small pools.

Protesters outside the aquarium commented on their concerns and even called for Dr. John Nightingale to resign.IMG_20140726_110000_233

As the presentations from the Vancouver Park Board continued until after three p.m., there was less than two hours for speakers before the meeting ended at 5 p.m. With over 130 speakers signed up to speak, the meeting was extended to Monday July 28, at 6 pm at 2099 Beach Avenue.

Liberation BC Film Screening Series: Blackfish

Thursday, June 5th, 2014




Liberation BC screened Blackfish on May 29th at the Vancouver Public Library. Tilikum, an orca captured as a two-year-old off the coast of Iceland in 1983, is the controversial star of the documentary film, Blackfish. Tilikum is one of many whales kept in captivity in parks like SeaWorld around the world. Blackfish explores the effect of captivity on whales, making the case that captive whales endure mental and physical distress, and pose risks to their keepers. After all, Tilikum is associated with the death of three people.

Blackfish is the first film since Grizzly Man to show how nature can get revenge on man when pushed to its limits. From the Blackfish film description.

The first and traumatic contact that captive whales have with humans is of course during their initial capture. SeaWorld once captured whales in Washington State. Diver John Crowe, who SeaWorld hired to assist with the capture, described a capture in Puget Sound as “just like kidnapping a little kid from his mother.” Howard Garrett, a researcher with the Orca Network, described how adults in the pod of whales split the pod in two as a diversionary tactic. Unfortunately, for the whales, the capture team had a plane spotter follow them to ensure none of the whales could escape and SeaWorld was able to capture a baby. Washington State has since banned SeaWorld from the state, and the company now captures whales in other countries, or in the case of Tilikum, purchases whales from other marine animal parks.

‘I was in awe,’ and ‘I could not believe how huge they were.’ Trainers interviewed in the film recalled their initial impressions of whales as beginning trainers.

Tilikum started his marine park life at Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, BC. His trainer, Keltie Byrne, died after she slipped into the pool. According to witnesses, the whales prevented her from escaping, and two people identified Tilikum as the culprit. The film examines how Sealand treated Tilikum and other killer whales. Trainers denied whales fish to help control behaviour, scraped the whales’ skin with rakes as punishment, and kept the whales in a small, dark enclosure overnight because Sealand feared that someone would cut the net and allow the whales to escape. After Byrne’s death, public outcry ensured that Sealand closed. Sealand sold Tilikum to SeaWorld, apparently with the understanding that he would not perform but only be used for breeding.

Instead, Tilikum continued to perform and in 1999, a SeaWorld visitor remained after hours and evaded security to enter Tilikum’s tank. Staff found him dead the next day. In 2010, experienced trainer, Dawn Brancheau, died when Tilikum pulled her into the water following a show.

A whale’s life in captivity is dramatically different from their natural habitat. According to Lori Marino of Emory University’s Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program, who is interviewed in the film, whales have highly developed emotional lives and even have a part of the brain, the paralimbic region, dedicated to emotion that humans do not. Researchers at Dalhousie note that killer whales possess complex and stable vocal and behavioural cultures.

Research on whales in the wild shows that family ties are strong, and separating whales from their pods is detrimental. When the park took baby Shamu from his mother, trainers recalled the obvious distress that his mother exhibited and the attention that other female whales gave her, evidently in effort to comfort her.

Living in captivity forces whales to live in unnatural circumstances. SeaWorld eventually separated Tilikum from female whales because they were attacking him, so Tilikum spent much of his life in isolation. In the wild, males normally live at the fringe of the pod, unlike in parks where whales live in close confinement with each other and with whales who are not part of their family or cultural groups. Blackfish makes the case that the distress of life in captivity was behind the aggression that Tilkum tragically showed against people.

While Blackfish paints a compelling picture of why whales are completely unsuitable to living in captivity, SeaWorld pushes back with critique of the film and a website dedicated to disputing the Blackfish documentary.

Excellent expose of human brutality to these majestic creatures. Let’s all work to stop this cruelty. Viewer at the Liberation BC screening.



Liberation BC likes to find out a little bit about our film screening audience to see who we are reaching with messages about animal rights. Of the 70 people who turned out for the screening on May 29, 30 responded to our questionnaire about their diet. Seventeen people said they are omnivores, while five said they were vegetarian, seven said they were vegan, and one person indicated ‘other’. Viewers commented that the film is “heartbreaking,” “enlightening and moving,” and one person wrote that “no wild animals should be kept in zoos or tanks.”

Watch for demonstrations at the Night at the Aquarium on June 10th.

Watch the Blackfish trailer.

You may view the trailer or purchase Blackfish on DVD on their website.

Keep an eye out for future film screenings and other events on the Liberation BC Events page.

Better than a Zoo: Big Red and Ezra, the Red-tailed Hawks

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Zoos are no substitute for appreciating a wild animal in his or her natural habitat, and they usually mean cruelty, suffering, and death for the animals themselves.

Almost everybody loves watching wild animals, though, and we’re very fortunate to be in the 21st century, where technology is improving to the point that we no longer need to imprison them to do so.

Case in point: Big Red and Ezra.

Big Red and Ez

Ezra sits on the eggs; his mate, Big Red, returns to the light pole upon which they've made their nest, March 2013. (Screenshot: MV on Flickr)

Big Red and Ezra are two wild Red-tailed Hawks who make their home on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York.  For two years now, researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have monitored the nests of these beautiful birds via remote HD cameras, broadcasting them live for all the world to appreciate.  The lens view can be zoomed in, moved out, and adjusted so as to get the best view possible–far closer than you could ever get in a zoo or even in the wild, and all without disturbing the birds.

An interactive chatroom staffed with bird experts and curious hawkwatchers add to the experience, as does the impressive FAQ page.


Handsome Ezra strikes a pose, April 2013. (Screenshot: elly012912 on Flickr)

Thanks to the cam, viewers can watch Big Red and Ezra throughout the entirety of the breeding season.  We see them build their nest, lay eggs, and take turns brooding and warming them, standing periodically to roll them so that the chicks develop properly.  We see Ezra bring prey to Big Red (for she is the one who does the majority of nest-sitting) and we listen to them communicate with each other in a series of chirps and screeches.  When the babies hatch, we are witness to the entire grueling experience.  (Hatching is a very tough process and can take up to 72 hours!)  We watch Big Red and Ezra taking turns feeding them and we see as the hawklets finally figure out how to tear food for themselves.  As they grow, we see them become stronger day by day, going from downy balls of fluff who can’t open their eyes or hold up their heads to fully-grown fledglings who leap off the edge of the nest for their first flight.

BR with eggs

Big Red examines her third egg just after having laid it on March 20, 2013.

An experience like this can simply not be compared to watching a captive animal struggling to live some semblance of a natural life in a cage.

There are also other wonderful nestcams at the Lab of Ornithology, including the Great Blue Heron nest.

You can join the journey of Big Red and Ezra now and as can be guessed from this blog post, I fully recommend it.

fuzzy hawklet

One of last year's hawklets gazes into the camera (Screenshot: KidGos on Flickr)

Get elephants out of zoos!

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

By now we’ve all heard the great news about the elephants at the Toronto Zoo: at the end of November, the Toronto city council voted overwhelmingly in favour of sending Iringa, Toka, and Thika to PAWS, an animal sanctuary in California.  In fact, more and more zoos are closing their elephant exhibits, realizing that we are completely incapable of providing any semblance of a natural life for them in captivity.

Mara the elephant at PAWS

Mara, an elephant living at PAWS, and a friend.

Did you know that elephants in zoos die decades earlier than those living in the wild?

A survey comparing the records of 4,500 African elephants both in the wild and in captivity found that the median lifespan of a wild elephant is 56 years; the median lifespan of a captive elephant, just 16.9.  Asian elephants appeared to fare even worse, suffering higher rates of infant mortality than their African relatives.  The researchers suggested that stress and obesity are the main culprits of these early deaths, concluding that “bringing elephants into zoos profoundly impairs their viability.” (more)

Meanwhile, Lucy continues to languish alone at the Edmonton Valley Zoo despite the fact that activists (including Bob Barker!) have been campaigning for her freedom for years, and at least one zoo is even expanding its elephant exhibit:

 In 2003, the San Diego Zoo captured and imported 11 African elephants from their natural habitat in Swaziland, despite the fact that the species is designated “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, leaving only 36 elephants in the whole country.  Experts working with the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, the longest running study of wild elephants in the world, decried the decision, stating that “Taking elephants from the wild is not only traumatic for them, it is also detrimental to their health. … No matter how well your zoo may treat the elephants, your visitors would not want to know what those tranquil elephants went through to make it possible for them to be viewed in captivity.”(more)

Some zoos which keep elephants mislead the public by claiming that they do so in the name of conservation, but that’s far from the truth:

 …even the zoo industry has stated that they have no intention of returning elephants in North American zoos to the wild;  nor do they believe that doing so would save elephants from extinction. Captive elephants breed very rarely, which is part of the reason that zoos continue to capture wild ones…(more)

Learn more about elephants in zoos–and zoos in general–at our new info page.

Lucy in the snow

Lucy stands in the snow in her tiny enclosure at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, where she has lived alone for years.

Girl bitten at SeaWorld’s Dolphin Cove

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

On November 21st, an 8-year-old girl named Jillian Thomas was feeding dolphins in SeaWorld Orlando’s Dolphin Cove when something went wrong.  The paper carton full of fish she’d been given to feed the animals was empty, so she turned away from the pool momentarily, her arm outstretched:

“…when the dolphin saw that, it leaped at me and bit me, ate the carton.”*

She suffered a swollen hand and three dime-sized bite marks, but she didn’t blame the dolphin:

Jillian held two dolphin stuffed animals as she recounted the ordeal, saying she hoped the dolphin didn’t get sick from eating the paper carton. She’s prayed for the animal at night, she said.*

Jillian is clearly a wonderfully compassionate person and a true dolphin lover, and I don’t blame her one bit for wanting to go to SeaWorld to be around her favourite animals.  When I was her age I had already visited countless dolphin exhibits and been to multiple shows, not realizing that I was supporting a cruel industry that dooms these sociable, intelligent animals to spend their lives in the equivalent of a lonely, barren fishbowl, sometimes tearing them away from their families to do so. I only hope that when Jillian gets older, she realizes that sometimes, the best thing we can do for the animals we love is to leave them alone.

jillian with dolphin

Jillian was nearly pulled into the pool.

This wasn’t the first such incident at SeaWorld’s Dolphin Cove.  In 2006, a 7-year-old boy was bitten while petting a dolphin under the guidance of an aquarium employee.  Three weeks earlier, a 6-year-old boy was bitten as well.  Both resulted in minor injuries.  SeaWorld has made no changes to Dolphin Cove, insisting even now that it is safe for children.

As Jillian’s father recounted:

“They asked if she wanted first aid, and I said ‘she’s bleeding’ so yes, we want first aid.”*

It’s not really a surprise: SeaWorld has an impressively subpar record when it comes to dealing with the safety of their guests and employees.  Everybody remembers Dawn Brancheau, the  trainer who was killed two years ago when Tilikum, a 6-ton orca, pulled her into the water and drowned her. Tilikum had already been involved in two deaths in the past, but he is also incredibly valuable to the aquarium industry, having fathered 10 of the approximately 42 orcas in captivity worldwide.  (Tilikum was back on the job 13 months later, apparently having the time in solitary confinement.) In 2009, trainer Alexis Martinez was killed while training for a Christmas show with another orca named Keto,and in 2006, trainer Kenneth Peters was violently attacked by Kasaka, an orca who had already bitten him severely seven years earlier.  (Fortunately, Peters survived with only puncture wounds and a broken foot, despite having been dragged underwater for a full minute, then released momentarily before Kasaka grabbed him again and held him under until he went limp.) Working with cetaceans is a dangerous job.

A survey commissioned by US Marine Mammal Commission and conducted by UCLA found that half of the people who work with marine mammals have been injured by them, and that of these injuries, one-third are severe: fractures, deep wounds, or wounds requiring stitches.

You can learn more about injuries at SeaWorld and other aquariums at our fact page.

 *All quotes for this post are from The Ottawa Citizen.

Another one??

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Jafira (Photo: Greater Vancouver Zoo)

A third giraffe has died at the famously incompetent Greater Vancouver Zoo in less than one year.  Last November, a female named Eleah and her son, Amryn, died within a week of each other; while ensuing necropsies didn’t reveal the cause, the Vancouver Humane Society noted that as African animals, giraffes are particularly susceptible to cold weather and have been known to die as a result of exposure in the past. (You can read our blog post about it here.)  Jafira, Eleah’s mate and Amryn’s father, was alone in his enclosure until the Greater Vancouver Zoo bought another male giraffe to keep him company.

This Sunday, Jafira died.  He was 12 years old, less than half the lifespan of an average giraffe, captive or wild. Zoo staff, who say that he was “completely healthy”, found him collapsed in his enclosure that morning, and a necropsy is scheduled. I wonder whether if it will be as inconclusive as last years’ were?

In the meantime, what will become of the last giraffe at the Greater Vancouver Zoo?  Will they just buy another one, as they did when Eleah and Amryn died? Ideally, he would be sent to a sanctuary of some sort, assuming there even are sanctuaries that can take giraffes.  (A quick search showed me that there’s at least a couple, but they all seem to be in Kenya.)  And while no zoos are good zoos, some zoos are worse than others: case in point, the Greater Vancouver Zoo.  Perhaps the remaining giraffe could be sent to another facility that has a larger herd of giraffes and a less pathetic track record when it comes to keeping them alive.

I don’t know that there are any easy answers here, but there’s at least one easy solution: don’t support zoos.  They are not the bastions of education and conservation that they claim to be and they do more harm than good.  So if you’re concerned about wild animals–and who isn’t?–skip the zoo and donate the cost of a ticket to a worthy charity that actually works to protect wild animals, rather than just paying lip-service to the idea.  (Be careful not to give your money to groups that claim to care about animals while supporting hunting and trapping and other forms of “wildlife management”, like the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Nature Conservancy.) One particularly great organization that I learned about recently is the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, which protects about 52 wild elephant families, or approximately 1,400 elephants, in Kenya.  They have an annual operating budget of $400,000–some zoos spend that amount to maintain just 4 captive elephants for a year!

Do you have any favourite wildlife charities?  Let us know in the comments!

Update, Nov. 7th: “The BC SPCA says its investigation into the death of a giraffe at the Greater Vancouver Zoo is being hampered because workers refuse to share key information.  SPCA spokeswoman Lorie Chortyk said her organization has been forced to seek a warrant to obtain documents the zoo could simply hand over willingly.” (article)

Way to go, GVZ, we certainly couldn’t expect any more from you.

Aquarium captures endangered sharks for “educational purposes”

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Despite the fact that sand tiger sharks are endangered, hunters working on behalf of Ripley Entertainment, Inc. recently received clearance from the United States government to capture ten of them “for educational purposes”.  (The Toronto Star)  Biologists claim that dozens of trips will be necessary to capture the 13,500 total specimens of fish, rays, and sharks, who will then be transported over the border to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, set to open next year in Toronto.

What do aquariums and zoos have to do with conservation and education?

Surprisingly little.

Despite outwardly confident claims of educational value, even the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums [the American counterpart to the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums] admits that while there “…is some evidence of zoo experiences resulting in changes in visitors’ intention to act, there are few studies demonstrating actual changes in behavior.”  Existing studies, however, indicate that  zoos and aquariums do little to increase the public’s knowledge of animals and of conservation-related issues. (more)

And did you know that…

…fewer than 5% to 10% of zoos, dolphinarium, and aquariums are actually involved in what would qualify as substantial conservation programs either in the wild or in captive settings, and even then, the amount spent on these programs is a “mere fraction” of their overall income.  A study conducted in 1999 showed that parks belonging to the Association of Zoo and Aquariums donated about one-tenth of 1% of their annual operating budgets on conservation efforts.  (more)

Sand tiger sharks are in particular danger from shark finning, which is why the work of groups like Shark Truth and VADL is so important.  (On a very related and positive note, Toronto recently banned the sale and possession of shark fin, as have the cities of Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, and North Vancouver right here in BC!  If you’d like to help, you can sign a petition here.)  Similarly crucial is the protection of our oceans and their inhabitants, the majority of whom are in desperate straits thanks to our avarice for seafood and our continued indifference to pollution.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada claims that it will use the sand tiger sharks as a tool to educate people, especially children.  “Sand tigers look like a mean, nasty shark, which makes them a powerful educational tool,” [vice-president of husbandry with Ripley Entertainment Inc., Joe] Choromanski said. “We get to say, hey, that’s not a man-eater.” (article)

It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s also a pretty empty one.  Sharks are not being killed en masse because we are afraid of them but because we are indifferent to their suffering and to the destruction of their home as long as it continues to benefit us.   Teaching children that sharks exist to swim in circles in big fish tanks does nothing to protect and preserve them; in fact, according to David Hancock, former zoo director, “Zoos have painted themselves as saviors of the wild…I fear this has instilled a false sense of security in the public mind. Many people now believe they don’t have to worry about saving animals, because zoos are doing the job.”

“Baby Beluga” dies at Vancouver Aquarium

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Yesterday, Kavna, the 46-year-old beluga at the Vancouver Aquarium, died of cancer.  Most captive belugas die in their teens or early 20′s, so at first glance it would seem that 46 years is indeed an above-average lifespan.  At the Vancouver Aquarium, 14 belugas have been exhibited since 1967, and 7 died within 10 years of being born or wild-caught.  (3 have been sold to Sea World.) This is not an impressive track record, and it looks even worse when compared with the fact that scientists now believe that the average lifespan of a wild beluga is 50 to 60 years.

The Vancouver Aquarium apparently isn’t up on the latest research.  In today’s issue of the Vancouver Sun, the aquarium’s veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena notes that “belugas have an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years in the wild and Kavna far outlived that.” (article)

belugas in a cramped, barren tank at the Vancouver Aquarium

Belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium, 2009 (Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals)

It isn’t uncommon for the captive animal industry to stretch the truth when it comes to presenting captivity as favourable to an increasingly skeptical public:

The Indianapolis Zoo’s website stated that the average lifespan of wild bottlenose dolphins was 37 years of age until a newspaper reporter pointed out that none of the aquarium’s dolphins had lived past 21. The information on the website changed to follow suit: suddenly, the life expectancy of wild bottlenose dolphins was listed as only 17 years. (more)

Kavna was also the inspiration for musician Raffi’s famous “Baby Beluga” song, the first verse of which is:

Baby beluga in the deep blue sea,
Swim so wild and you swim so free.
Heaven above and the sea below,
And a little white whale on the go.

This is a peculiar choice of lyrics, since Kavna was captured near Churchill, Manitoba, in 1976 and never got to swim wild and free again.

An aquarium is completely incapable of providing an environment that even remotely resembles that of a wild beluga.  In nature, belugas can dive for 15 minutes at a time, reaching depths of 800 metres.  70% of their dives are over 40 metres deep, and they spend 40% to 60% of their time below the surface of the water.  Even in the largest of facilities, the average cetacean is provided with only one-ten-thousandth of 1% of the space they would regularly use in the wild.

References and sources for all of the facts in this blog post can be found on our Aquariums page.  Check it out for lots more information.

Animals at Stanley Park petting zoo sent to slaughter

Monday, February 13th, 2012

But it’s zoo business as usual.

The news came out today that some of the sheep and goats at the former Stanley Park Children’s Farmyard were sent to slaughter by Trevor French, owner of Golden Grounds Farms, who promised to take them in when the petting zoo closed.  Instead, it appears that the majority may have been sent to auction and slaughtered not long after having been adopted.

The agreement, the park board says, was that the animals would be allowed to live out the rest of their natural lives at their adoptive homes.

“…We followed very stringent, thorough practice to check everybody out,” [Park Board Chair Constance] Barnes told CTV, noting that letters of reference were sought and site inspections carried out. (source)


Gordon Barber, the park board’s manager of revenue operations, told the Sun the park board wouldn’t have allowed French to adopt the retired pets if they had realized he sold meat from his farm. (source)

Somehow, the fact that French runs a farm that specializes in free-range beef, lamb, turkey and eggs slipped past them.

Regardless of intent or negligence on the part of anybody involved, the fact remains that while French may be in trouble for breaking his contract with the city, he didn’t violate any laws.   This sort of thing happens all the time and has been documented over and over again.  Though in this case, the animals were sold because the zoo was closing, it is legal, routine practice for petting zoos to  send their animals to slaughter once they grow past the optimum age for cuddly cuteness.   Animals at zoos (the non-petting kind) frequently suffer the same fate: when babies are born, bringing in legions of new customers, it is the older, less popular animals that pay the price.  They frequently end up in slaughterhouses, in decrepit roadside zoos or travelling circuses, or even on shooting ranges and hunting ranches.  That includes bears, tigers, lions, antelopes, kangaroos, giraffes, hippos, and more.

Liberation BC will be posting a new info page on our website with more facts about zoos soon.  Watch for it!

Two Giraffes Die Within One Week at Greater Vancouver Zoo

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Giraffe at Greater Vancouver Zoo, by flickr user

A second giraffe has now died at the Greater Vancouver Zoo – both within one week.

On Tuesday November 15th, the Zoo’s 3-year-old baby giraffe was found dead in his enclosure. The cause of death is still under investigation. Now his mother has been found dead in her barn on Saturday, November 19th. The zoo has stated that the mother giraffe was considered a senior, at the age of 23.  This is the third giraffe death at the zoo; another baby died in 2006.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo has a very poor track record of taking care of their animals. In 1983, the zoo had two hippos in its care drown after falling through the ice after being given access to a frozen outdoor pond.

In 2004 the zoo lost its accreditation from the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums due to keeping 2 hippos in an unheated barn in severe cold during the winter months. A couple of years later, with no improvements in terms of animal welfare, CAZA reaccredited the zoo.  (Learn more about the shady business of accreditation here.)  Of these 2 hippos, Gertrude died in 2004 at the age of 22 (half the life expectancy of a hippopotamus); Harvey died a year later in 2005 at the age of 20. They both lived their entire lives in the zoo in substandard conditions.

In 2006, the zoo was charged with animal cruelty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as they were once again providing inadequate housing to a hippo: this time a baby Hippo named Hazina (you may know her from the very popular TELUS advertising campaign seen on TV and billboards a few years ago.)

The only water she was provided with was a 2 feet deep wading pool, not sufficient to help alleviate the weight of her 1,000 pound body on her joints. She was not permitted to go outside and graze; also, she was not provided with any rubber padding to help alleviate the weight of her body against the concrete in her enclosure.

In April of 2009 five zebras died after zoo caretakers carelessly released two Cape Buffalo into their enclosure, a decision which caused such extreme stress to the animals that they died of strokes.

Zoos are not sanctuaries. Giraffes and other exotic animals do not belong anywhere in Canada. These beautiful animals have to endure long winters trapped indoors, often in isolation; in the wild or on large sanctuaries in warm climates they have hundreds of miles to roam free and can fulfill their need for rich social interaction.

Please show your support for the animals and do not visit the zoo. Every dollar you spend is a vote – please do not support these facilities whose only aim is to profit off of the animals who suffer in their care.